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We are made of starstuff


During my English A Level, I remember a lesson about abstract nouns.  Our teacher explained to us that they are things you cannot touch or sense, they have no physical existence.  "Like democracy, bravery or sadness," she said.

She was wrong though, I think.  This sadness is not abstract, it is concrete.  You can put your hands around it or feel it sitting in the pit of your stomach, as if you swallowed a rock.  It is as physical as a punch in the stomach; it possesses a sting like biting through your tongue.  I would dispute with my English teacher that you cannot sense sadness, or that it is somehow intangible.  It is a clear and present thing that can wake you by pressing on your chest, or be lurking unexpectedly around a corner.  It is an ache that painkillers cannot soothe.  It is the feeling of being dug out with a spoon, hollowed somehow.  I press my fingers into my belly where it hurts.  Itisreal itisreal itisreal.

At my parents' house I sleep with the blind pulled up.  When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see trees against the night sky.  I watch the trees flounder and grow wild in the wind (especially last night; thrashing and twisting in the storm that grew and grew throughout the night).  I am reminded that through wind and rain and as time passes, trees grow roots for stability.  The roots push through the dirt and rocks and hold the tree fast, through still or storm.  I imagine myself pushing my fingers into the mud and grasping, holding tight; clenching pebbles and dust and worms and hidden things.  If I stand steadfast and root myself to the ground, will I weather this storm? Will the rock in my stomach subside? (Everything in life is a metaphor for everything else).

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see lights on in the bedrooms of the people who live opposite.  I watch their silhouettes move around their room; dancing and laughing and sitting and living, just living on and on and on.  I am reminded that through darkness there is lightness and that life goes on.  There are periods in life when you dance in the kitchen, and periods in life when you do not leave your bed, but still time passes.  I imagine that in another lifetime I will be living in a different house and I will be the silhouette and someone else, ensconced in sadness will stare at me through their blinds and realise that life goes on regardless.

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see the stars, like tiny pinpricks in the sky that the light is leaking through.  A friend told me today that using the Hubble telescope we can see the light from the Eagle Nebula, which takes 7000 years to reach the earth.  What would I do with 7000 years, I think.  Would this still hurt as much? Would I still love as hard, ball my fists, clench my teeth and hold on to things not meant for me? Would I still feel as scared? Carl Sagan said,  “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” I cannot believe it right now, but one day I will.  The universe is so vast, and we are so small and we are all made of stars.

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I tell myself that I will grow roots, that one day I will dance in the kitchen again, and that I am made of stars.  Sleep finds me, and I do not wake until the morning.  The storm has subsided now.  There is a silence and stillness that feels, somehow, concrete.

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